““False information, misinformation and misunderstanding might have created a false sense of hope,” said Guerline Jozef, executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, an organization that works with migrants.
Biden’s term has coincided with a sharp deterioration in the political and economic stability of Haiti, leaving parts of its capital under the control of gangs and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes. The assassination of Haiti’s president and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake this summer have only added to the pressures causing people to leave the country. Shortly after the assassination, hundreds of Haitians flocked to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, many carrying packed suitcases and small children, after false rumors spread on social media that the Biden administration was handing out humanitarian visas to Haitians in need.
Most of the Haitians in Mexico — a country that has intercepted nearly 4,000 this year — were not coming directly from Haiti, but from South America, where, like Mackenson, they had already been living and working, according to a top official in the Mexican foreign ministry. The number of Haitians heading northward across the border that separates Colombia and Panama — often by traversing the treacherous jungle known as the Darién Gap — has also surged in recent years, increasing from just 420 in 2018 to more than 42,300 through August of this year, according to the Panamanian government.
“We are dealing with this really new type of migration, which are these Haitians coming from mainly Brazil and Chile,” said Roberto Velasco, chief officer for North America at Mexico’s foreign ministry. “They are mainly looking for jobs. They come from third countries, so repatriation is difficult.”
Following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of Haitians headed southward to Chile and Brazil in search of jobs in two of South America’s richest countries. To get there, many undertook an arduous overland journey across the continent through the Amazon and the Andes.
Many were offered humanitarian visas in both nations, which needed low-wage workers, but that welcoming stance withered as economic instability in the region rose in tandem with a growing backlash toward immigrants.”